We live in a world of results. It is a pragmatic world. Our conclusions of what works and what does not work is based on both our assumptions of the problem and our desired resolution. Most of you are aware of my ongoing battle with the lawnmower this summer. It breaks down weekly. On one occasion, it just wouldn’t start. I remembered a small engine mechanic telling me that a lawnmower engine needs three things: gasoline, air and a spark. I literally tore the whole engine apart. I cleaned the carburetor, replaced the plug and even checked the case for compression. The gas tank was full and still the mower would not work. Whenever I used starting fluid directly into the carburetor, it would fire right up and then quit. What was the problem? I had spark, the air filters were clean and the gas tank was full.
Now, I know this is a “guy example” but I am sure all of us can understand the connection. Sometimes in life we assume we have everything in place. All the parts we need to be successful are available. Why won’t the desired results happen? We live in a pragmatic world. We assume we know the desired results. Obviously the job promotion or the potential romantic interest will make life more enjoyable. Ok God, here is what will make me happy so let me get the promotion or have a date with this particular guy or gal. We pray and we pray and nothing happens. The promotion goes to someone else, the love interest picks the other girl and we begin to doubt the effectiveness of our prayers, of prayers in general or even begin to doubt that God really loves us. If God did love us, wouldn’t we have gotten what we desired? In my own experiences, sometimes realizations came quickly and other times, it takes years. Our path in life changes and goes in another direction. We assume we have been abandoned by God. As the days go by and as the years pass I discover that God is indeed with me and this is especially true during troubled times. A new opportunity, maturation or some other effect of my troubled circumstances turns out to be the best thing that ever happened to me.
I realize that even though I had all that I needed in place, my desire for things to transpire the way I wanted them to transpire had seemingly made me ineffective and broken. I cut myself off from the source of strength and forgot the teaching of the Church that God is always at work within my life for the good of his Kingdom. My oversight or my confusion prevented the flow of God’s grace into my life. I discovered that over time, I had slowly bought into the world’s idea that immediate results are the sign of success. That enculturation constricted the flow of God’s wisdom. Thankfully, God is sovereign. Regardless of my confusion or sense of helplessness, God was still at work even when I had given up.
As for the lawn mower, I talked to several of the men at FCC. Because of their experience and knowledge they told me that the gasoline we use these days has a tendency to literally melt gas lines to the point that they close up and although the tank is full, none of it gets to the engine. I changed the gas line, turned the key and the lawnmower fired right up. Ironically, all the work I had done because I tried to go it alone prevented me from doing the real work of mowing grass.
Everything seems to be in place but yet things still don’t seem to work? Consult your brothers and sisters in Christ. Their experience might help. Trust them, believe in them and don’t give up. Most important, make sure your lines through which grace comes isn’t closed or gummed up. Open yourself to God in prayer and get to the work that makes a difference, the work that really needs to be done.